Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Memories of Halloween past

Wick's World


October 26, 2017

A small pack of werewolves scurried across the dimly lit street in Moose Lake, but the Nike tennis shoes sticking out from under the costumes belied the true identities as human, not canine. The youth of the area were out and about on this last day of October, carrying on an old Pagan tradition called Samhain, which marks the end of the Celtics’ autumn season.

The festivities in Moose Lake used to begin at the old school gymnasium where the annual costume parade would take place before teachers, students, parents and many folks from the general public. This year’s school festivities will take place in a brand new shiny building bought at a bargain basement price thanks to Mother Nature (the 100-year flood) and a benevolent legislature. I have my own Moose Lake memories from Halloweens past connected to many years of taking my kids trick-or-treating around town.

What Minnesotan could ever forget the Great Halloween Blizzard of 1991? A few days earlier in October of that year, St. Paul was referred to as New Jack City in honor of St. Paul’s hometown hero, Jack Morris. It was his historical 10-inning pitching performance against the Atlanta Braves that won the World Series for the Minnesota Twins. Can you guess which Moose Lake resident is Jack’s uncle? I ran into Uncle Harlan a year or two ago during one of my weekly business excursions up north. The years etched in his face reminded me it had been many years since I was a daily resident of Moose Lake.

The year of '91, the keys to the Twin Cities were turned over to the Minnesota Twins, the darlings of the state, but they should have been handed the keys to the snowplows. Even the weathermen were stumped by this snowstorm for, although it was forecast to drop a large amount of snow rather quickly and move on, the warm front stalled over Minnesota and all snowfall predictions went out the window, or in most areas, up to it. What began on Halloween day as thick, wet snowflakes continued for three days, bringing over three feet of snow to Moose Lake and the surrounding communities.

Pope Gregory IV Christianized the Pagan ritual of Halloween in 835AD by renaming it All Saints Day to honor those who had gone on before us. This was eventually changed to All Souls Day when the spirits of the dead would return on Halloween Eve to be offered food and gifts until their journey back to the underworld upon sunrise. Just when and where did we get the witches, jack-o-lanterns, trick-or-treat masks and costumes, and ghosts and goblins?

Witches entered the Halloween festivities riding the tail of the witch hysteria of the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries in Old Europe, continuing all the way on to Salem, Massachusetts. Witches of the era were said to appear as black cats when they were in animal form.

The jack-o-lantern originated in medieval Scotland and was first carved out of large turnips. This tradition soon changed to pumpkins, either because they were more plentiful or because they were larger and easier to carve.

Irish peasants unwittingly started the tradition of trick-or-treating. On October 31 of each year, they would go door to door demanding food and gifts for the nights’ festivities. You were assured continued prosperity if you gave generously. Meanwhile, threats were made against those who chose to be stingy.

The razor blade in the candy scare entered the scene in the 1970s, and although this was later proven to be a hoax as no razor blade was ever found, it had a tremendous impact on the way Halloween candy is treated today. I think it was actually an excuse for the parents to pick out all the good pieces of candy.

Halloween parties are always a blast, especially the ones in public places where a bunch of people get together and try to figure out who is who. The first Halloween after I moved to Minnesota in 1977, I dressed up in costume for a party at a place called the Long Branch Bar in Barnum. As I strolled into the bar, I became acutely aware of the fact I was the only person in costume. Standing in a diaper with yellow mustard oozing out the bottom, a baby bonnet on my head and baby bottle in my hand, I shared a tense moment with the bartender before he said, “You must be looking for your mom. The Halloween party’s tomorrow night!”


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